WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today spoke at a press conference on the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act, legislation he introduced today to address airline flight cancellations caused by a shortage of pilots. Drew Jacoby Lemos from the Regional Airline Association joined Graham in the press conference.
- GRAHAM: “In the next two years, [approximately] 5,000 pilots will be aged out. Not because they’re unsafe, just simply because they reached 65. My legislation would allow pilots to continue to fly if they meet the qualifications. We’re not dumbing down anything – they have to have a first-class medical certificate, they have to meet every qualification they do now.”
- GRAHAM: “In the next five years, [approximately] 14,000 pilots are going to be taken out of the cockpit because they turn 65. My legislation is trying to allow people to fly if they meet the medical qualifications until they’re 67. Many countries do this – America does not. It is time for America to adjust its age when it comes to allowing qualified people to be in the cockpit.”
- GRAHAM: “I am urging the Biden Administration to embrace real-world solutions so we can make a difference, to drop the special interests politics, put the traveling public interest ahead of special interest groups, and let’s come up with a change to the system that will allow qualified pilots to continue to sit behind the cockpit, to make air travel in America safe, efficient, and reliable. Without this change, it is only going to get worse.”
- GRAHAM: “Over the next fifteen years, half the pilots in America will hit 65. We have a crisis when it comes to airline travel – we have a pilot shortage.”
- LEMOS: “Regional airlines, along with the communities we serve, especially small airports like Greenville-Spartanburg, are experiencing the negative impacts of the shortage the worst. For instance, despite passenger demand returning to 2019 levels, 71 percent of airports – there are 315 airports – have lost flights since 2019. This includes nine that have lost service completely. South Carolina, which has approximately 61 percent of its flights provided by regional airlines, is also feeling the impact. Regional Greenville-Spartanburg is down 17 [percent], Columbia 24 percent, and Florence is down 27 percent. 500 parked aircraft equate to a deficiency of approximately 5,000 pilots.”
- GRAHAM: “The transportation sector in this country is in a state of disarray, but nothing is worse in my view than the airline crisis we have today. It’s not a safety issue; it’s a capability issue.”
- GRAHAM: “The sky did not fall [in 2007] while adjusting the [mandatory pilot retirement age] from 60 to 65, and it won’t fall by going to 67. What will happen is we’ll give an opportunity to thousands of pilots if they choose to stay in the cockpit which makes it better for all of us depending on air travel.”